I’m old, and retired; my mind wanders, I’m easily distracted. And that's why I've ignored this blog for so long.
Toby Yull has brought me back to it by sending along a lovely little piece of memory writing by her mother, our beautiful Aunt Kay, the last of her generation. I’m reproducing it here in its entirety – it’s not long:
“I want to say something about the first ‘Smiths’ who founded this family in Canada. I cannot write poetry, but I do remember them in a way that only a few of us can do.
My parents were very young people, newly married, who had left their families and their homes and come to what was, to them, a foreign country. They never really talked about this, or indeed much about their life in England, but my mother did tell me two stories about their lives that have lived in my memory for all of my long life.
The first concerned the birth of their first child. They lived, when he was born, in the upstairs of a house on Briscoe Street in London, and I do not know if the baby was born there or in a hospital, but I suspect it must have been in their home, since the story she told me occurred on the day the baby was just five days old.
The child was in a crib or bassinet at the foot of their bed. It was morning, and my father was standing at a dresser, combing his hair. She saw his reflected face in the mirror and saw that he was weeping. Seeing this, she suddenly knew that their baby was dead.
In my mind, I can see this scene very clearly.
The other story took place some time during World War I. By now they had produced two children who had lived, who are still living. My father, as far as she knew, was overseas. She had the two children standing in front of the kitchen sink, and was washing their faces preparatory to taking them out. She heard the door open and looked in the mirror and saw her husband standing there.
I, too, have lived through a war when my young husband was absent – in my case, for nearly six years. I can imagine that scene very clearly. And it, too, has stayed in my mind all the years since she told me of it, when I was a child.
It fascinates me that these two tiny vignettes, two little glances into their lives at that time, both contain my mother’s memory of the mirror image of my father. Was he someone she only saw in this way? Was he always an ‘image’ to her?”
I dispute Kay’s disclaimer that she can’t write poetry. She could.
The piece obviously stands on its own, but the history nerd in me can’t resist asking questions. Next post: a gloss on Aunt Kay’s remembrance.